It’s taken about a month, but things in the NBA are starting to shake out. The contenders and the pretenders are separating, heading their respective directions—up and down—in the standings.
We’re starting to get a sense of who a lot of these teams are. Some are surprising us (yes, that would be you, Phoenix), some are disappointing us (New York basketball, you’ve got to … well … yeah).
The movement up and down the HoopsHabit NBA Power Rankings is starting to get less violent. Jumps of one or two places are, for the most part, replacing those jumps of nine and 10 spots. Norms are becoming established, standard deviations aren’t so non-standard.
There are teams, sure, who go on late season runs—the proverbial “get hot at the right time” modus operandi. And there are others who collapse like a house of cards late in the year (think Portland 2012-13).
But for the most part, what we see now is pretty close to what we’re going to get later. We have a better sense of which teams will be doing little pre-playoff boot camps and which ones are going to be counting their ping pong balls.
So let’s dive in:
1. Indiana Pacers (14-1)
Previous Ranking: 2
Last Week: 4-0
Paul George averaged 21.8 points a game last week and shot 50 percent from 3 (10-for-20) as the Pacers put together a perfect week. Roy Hibbert averaged nine boards and 2.8 blocks, Lance Stephenson led the club in assists with 4.5 and George got 2.8 steals per game.
The Pacers dispatched Boston 97-82 on Friday, beat Philadelphia 106-98 on Saturday, handled Minnesota 98-84 on Monday and went to Charlotte and crushed the Bobcats Wednesday 99-94.
Indiana has a solid offensive rating of 101.2, a terrific defensive rating of 89.3 and a very good net of 11.9 points per 100 possessions. Could they stand to turn the ball over less than 17.1 percent of the time? Yes, but every team has a blemish or two.
2. San Antonio Spurs (13-2)
Previous Ranking: 1
Last Week: 3-1
The Spurs continue to be incredibly balanced; last week six players averaged in double figures for San Antonio over their four games. Tony Parker led the way at 15.5 points per game, Kawhi Leonard was their leading rebounder at 8.3 a game, Parker had 6.5 assists a game, Leonard and Danny Green each averaged 2.3 steals and Tim Duncan may not be scoring, but he did get 2.5 blocks a game.
The Spurs won Friday at Memphis 102-86, pounded Cleveland 126-96, hammered New Orleans 112-93 and then had their 11-game winning streak stuffed at Oklahoma City Wednesday night 94-88.
San Antonio’s 12.3 net points per 100 possessions is the best in the NBA and their shooting is solid (true shooting percentage of 55.9), but their rebounding might be an issue at 49.9 percent.